Well, some good news for you. I've finished the final act. But I'll be going over it, making improvements to it before I post it. However, I'll give you the next act!
moved slowly through the cemetery of the dead ships for more than ten minutes, scanning for survivors, but they found none. They detected the tell-tale signatures of Federation engines leading away from the battle, and Riker hoped that this meant that some of the ships had managed to escape, but he noted with dismay that only one of the trails led towards the fall-back position. The other two moved in the other direction. He wondered what this could mean. Other than that, they had not detected any signs of engine emissions. The Cube had presumably started to head back towards Earth, but they hadn’t found any traces of its engine signature and so couldn’t determine its exact course. Riker decided to give five more minutes to find the Cube’s trail before he ordered the Enterprise
to set a course for Earth.
“Sir,” Worf called from tactical, “sensors are picking up unusually strong eddy currents, bearing two zero zero, mark two one one.”
Riker turned to Data. “Your analysis?”
“It could indicate the course of the Borg ship,” he said. All moving objects created distortions in the fabric of subspace, much like the wake of a boat as it moves across the water. A starship was too small to create eddy currents that were noticeable, but larger objects created a measurable flux in subspace. It seemed that the Borg Cube was large enough to create such currents. Certainly nothing else in the system could have produced them. And they were heading in the expected course of the Cube.
Riker turned to the helm. “Ensign Crusher, set in a course that follows those currents.” He turned to Shelby. “Commander,” he said, “prepare to initiate your plan to separate the saucer section when we find the Borg.”
Shelby stood and walked to him, her expression concerned. “Sir, I must remind you that Captain Picard was briefed on that plan. The Borg will be prepared for it.”
Riker nodded. “I’m aware of that, Commander, he said, and the corner of his mouth twisted into a wry smile. “In fact, I’m counting on it.”
Shelby regarded him for a moment, as though trying to see into his mind. “Crusher, Cartaino, Gleason, report to the battle bridge,” she ordered. Her voice was clipped, authoritative. She didn’t know what Riker was planning, but there was something in his voice, some confidence that gave her hope for the first time in three days.
As the crew moved off and additional crew came in to take their stations, Riker gestured, calling Worf down from the tactical rail. “Mister Data, Mister Worf,” he said. “I’ve got a special mission for you.” And as Riker explained his strategy to them, Shelby listened, and smiled. It was a damned good plan.
In the depths of the Cube, Picard despaired.
He wished he could weep. Weep for those that had been lost, weep for himself. To have been violated, not just physically but mentally and emotionally, that was bad enough, but to be used to lead an attack on your comrades, to be forced to kill, to destroy, to ruin lives and cause so much pain and suffering… How could he live with what he’d been forced to do? Picard had struggled, fought to break free of the Borg’s control – her control – but his efforts had been in vain.
And then he heard her voice in his mind: Resistance is futile
. A soft whisper, as though she found his efforts to break free amusing. And then his eyes turned and Picard saw that she was there. “Yes, my love,” she said. “I’ll always be here, even if you don’t see me.” She ran her hand over his scalp. “I’ll always be there with you, in your mind…” She grinned wickedly and pressed her lips to his. In the heat of the Cube, Picard felt the chill of her touch. “I know it wasn’t pleasant for you,” she said, “hurting your friends like that. But I didn’t just do it for me. It was for you too.”
In his mind, Picard screamed in fury at her.
“Oh, come now, Jean-Luc,” she said. “You’re holding onto your past life. You’re really being very stubborn. You need to realise that I am now in control.” Her hand fell from his head and she stepped back and sighed. “Just let it happen. It must be obvious that you can never win. Give yourself over to us.” She smiled. “I promise all the pain will go away if you do.”
Go to hell
, Picard thought at her.
She shrugged. “Oh well,” she said. “No matter. You can’t hold out forever. To be honest, I’m quite pleased.” She grinned her wicked grin again. “I enjoy a challenge,” she said. “But, right now, there is something I want to show you.”
Before Picard, an image appeared. A starfield. The stars were rushing past and vanishing in the distance, and Picard realised that he was seeing what was behind the Cube. And the stars weren’t moving that fast. A rather leisurely warp five, or so he guessed.
“Yes, warp five, very good,” she said. “Look closer.”
And as Picard looked, the image seemed to obey his thoughts and it magnified. In the distance, he could see a bright speck of light, moving with the Cube, following. The Enterprise
And then he felt something, something he couldn’t quite put into words, but it was a sudden knowledge that the Enterprise
was hailing the Cube. And as soon as he thought about it, the image changed, displaying the inside of the bridge.
No, wait, that was the battle bridge.
Riker’s up to something.
Oh, I have no doubt of that
, he heard her say in his mind. But he will fail.
Riker was speaking. “Locutus of Borg, this is Captain William T Riker of the USS Enterprise
For a moment, Picard felt a flash of amusement. Riker had worried for so long about whether he was experienced enough to become captain, and now here he was with four pips! Greatness thrust upon him.
“You may speak.” It was beginning to feel more distant now, as though the voice that he heard wasn’t his anymore. Picard felt a great sadness weigh upon him. He was losing himself.
“We wish to end the hostilities,” said Riker.
The response was direct. “Then you must unconditionally surrender.”
“We are prepared to meet to discuss your terms,” Riker said.
Picard heard the words come out of his mouth. “It is unlikely that you are prepared to discuss terms. It is more likely that this is an attempt at deception.”
Riker stood from the command chair and stepped forwards, holding his hands out open in front of him as though in a gesture of friendship. “Come now, Locutus,” he said amiably. “If Picard’s knowledge and experience is part of you, then you know I have never lied to him. In fact, you should also implicitly trust me, is that not so?”
Picard wondered what Riker was doing. No attack, just an attempt to talk? What he was planning? But then he felt the Borg preparing themselves, and he cursed himself. Had he just alerted the Borg to a subtle strategy of Riker’s? Oh God, he hoped not.
“Picard implicitly trusted you.” It really didn’t feel like his voice anymore…
“Then trust me now,” said Riker. “Meet with me to discuss terms.”
“Discussion is irrelevant. There are no terms. You will disarm all your weapons and escort us to sector zero-zero-one where we will begin the assimilation of your culture and technology.”
The image abruptly cut off, and he saw just the inside of the corridor again.
As soon as the communication from the Cube had been cut off, Riker turned to Lieutenant Gleason, sitting at the battle bridge Ops station. “Mister Gleason, can you pinpoint the source of the Borg’s transmission?”
Gleason smiled. “I can put you within thirty meters of it, sir.”
“Good,” said Riker. He lifted his head and spoke to the com. “Mister O’Brien, report.”
“The Borg have adapted their electromagnetic field to prevent main transporter function,” O’Brien said from the transporter room on the saucer. He’d been working for the last ten minutes to find a way to beam Worf and Data onto the Cube, but his efforts had met with no success, even with Data’s help. They’d have to take another method to get onto the Cube.
“Damn,” muttered Riker. “Mister Data, Mister Worf, you will proceed as we discussed.”
“Aye Captain,” said Data, and then the comline closed.
Riker turned to Burkland at the tactical station and nodded.
“Channel open, sir.”
Riker turned back to the screen. “We would like time to prepare our people for assimilation,” said Riker. Nothing fancy now, just stalling for time.
“Preparation is irrelevant. Your people will be assimilated as easily as Picard has been.”
Riker made a show of wincing. “Does it involve needles? Because I really don’t like needles…”
The bait was not taken. “Your attempt at a delay will not be successful, Number One. We will proceed to Earth, and if you attempt to intervene, we will destroy you.”
Riker gave the Borg his best poker face. “Then take your best shot, Locutus,” he said dangerously, “because we are about to intervene.”
Burkland cut off the channel, and Riker turned to him. “Reset communications to scrambler code Riker One.” Riker went back to the command chair.
“Aye sir, Riker one,” Burkland acknowledged.
“Riker to Shelby. Report.”
“Ready for separation,” Shelby said, her voice coming down over the com from the main bridge.
“Make it so,” said Riker.
He could sense distant thuds echo through the hull, soft booms that he could feel more than hear as the massive docking clamps pulled together and then withdrew into the upper surface of the Enterprise
’s dorsal. Conduits and mechanisms retracted into the hull, and the Enterprise
’s primary hull moved away, the massive saucer picking up speed and sweeping around in a great arc to put distance between it and the stardrive.
La Forge reported, “Docking latches clear. Separation complete.”
“Saucer velocity one hundred meters per second and increasing,” Ensign Crusher said from the battle bridge’s helm. “They’re in position.”
“Open fire,” Riker ordered. “All weapons.”
“Acknowledged,” said Shelby, her voice coming over the comline. “Fire.”
She wasn’t surprised. In fact, it was rather foolish. Picard had been aware of the plan to separate the saucer section, so what did they think it could accomplish? Did they think that the saucer would distract her from the heavily armed stardrive?
Which to attack first? The thought came to her that it was far better to punish Riker before killing him. Let him see the saucer destroyed. Let him see the majority of the crew die. And the civilians. Let Riker suffer that pain before he was robbed of his life. Let him see the folly of interfering with her. But then she decided not to. Leave the crew on the saucer to witness the destruction of the more heavily armed of the pair. Let them wallow in their fear for a few minutes before she finally killed them. As satisfying as it would be to give Riker a slow death, the greater fear from the crew on the saucer would excite her more.
She directed her attention to the stardrive and smiled. This was almost too easy.
Both halves of the separated Enterprise
let fly with their weapons. The more heavily armed stardrive moved around the Cube as it attacked, firing bursts from all of its phaser banks and launching full spreads of torpedos. The weaker saucer had only two phaser banks, presenting less of a threat.
The Borg lashed out at the stardrive.
“Borg tractor beam is attempting to lock on, Captain,” said Wesley.
“Evasive maneuvers, pattern Riker Alpha.”
Wesley tapped the console, and the stardrive slewed off to the side, neatly dodging the Borg tractor beam. “Riker Alpha confirmed.”
Burkland spoke from tactical. “They’re ignoring the saucer completely.”
Riker let himself smile. “Just as you should, Captain,” he muttered. “Ensign Crusher, Riker Beta.”
Wesley entered the commands. “Riker Beta, confirmed.”
The stardrive spiralled away, then turned and attacked, moving in a chaotic zig zag pattern. The Borg couldn’t predict the stardrive’s course and were unable to seize the heavily armed vessel. The stardrive let loose with a barrage of phasers and torpedos.
Riker lifted his voice and spoke to the com. “Commander Shelby, proceed with the second phase.”
“Acknowledged,” came Shelby’s voice. “Launching antimatter spread.”
Space flared white, and for a moment, she couldn’t see. She turned her attention to the source of the blinding light, and saw the saucer section releasing thousands of exploding pellets of antimatter towards her Cube. Beyond it, she could sense nothing. The antimatter was screening her sensors.
What were they doing? They must have known that this would be an ineffective weapon. She reached into Picard’s mind, but he knew nothing, and she experienced a moment of doubt. They were doing something, and she didn’t know what. No sense in giving them an advantage, no matter what it might be, though. She turned her attention fully to the saucer.
Data and Worf sat in the shuttle Descartes
. Data had positioned the shuttle just inside the saucer’s massive shuttlebay, ready to move at a moment’s notice.
Riker’s order came over the shuttle’s com system. “Data, launch the shuttle.”
“Shuttle launch sequence initialised,” Data acknowledged. He activated the shuttle’s engines, and the Descartes
moved forwards. “Departing Enterprise
in three seconds.” Ahead, the antimatter spread was creating a forest of pyrotechnics. The Descartes
rushed into it, losing itself among the explosions, hiding from the Cube’s sensors. The tiny vessel was tossed and thrown in the flak.
“What are they doing?” she wondered. “Tell me, Picard.”
Picard watched, unable to see part the blanket of fire. Despite his intentions, his mind considered what was happening. The saucer of the Enterprise
was almost completely hidden, but he could just make out something moving…
She smiled. “Yes, they’re hiding something
She reached towards the saucer to see what she could find.
Wesley looked up from his panel. “The Borg tractor beam has moved towards the antimatter spread,” he said.
“They could be picking up the engine ionization from the shuttle,” suggest Gleason.
“Data, cut your engines,” Riker said. “Take her in unpowered.”
Data shut down the Descartes
’ impulse drive, letting the shuttle’s inertia carry it towards the Cube. He vented some of the craft’s oxygen supply, pushing the shuttle sideways, just avoiding the groping tractor beam.
A light flashed on the helm panel, and Data checked it. “Shuttle has penetrated the Borg electromagnetic field,” he said as he and Worf stood. They quickly moved into the aft compartment, and Data checked the escape transporter’s control. All the indications were green. “The shuttle escape transporter should provide enough power to beam us onto the Borg ship from here, sir,” he reported.
“And back?” Riker asked over the com.
“Yes sir. There should be enough energy for two transport cycles.”
Data tapped a control, and he and Worf disappeared.
Picard was aware as soon as Data and Worf materialised inside the Cube, less than twenty meters from where he stood. But what are they doing?
She was looking at him, looking into Picard’s mind. But she learnt nothing. Picard had no knowledge of Data and Worf’s intentions for her to steal.
, she said. I’ll send them an escort
Picard was aware of a dozen drones in the nearby corridor, moving out of their alcoves and converging on the away team.
And then she smiled, as though seized by a sudden idea. You too, Jean-Luc
, she said. I think I’ll let you be the instrument of their deaths.
And, against his will, Picard’s body began to move.
Data and Worf moved quickly, firing only when necessary. The chips designed by Wesley were working well; the Borg had yet to adapt, but Worf didn’t assume that he had any more than another four shots before the Borg adapted.
He used two of them before he spotted Locutus, then used the final two to fell the drones advancing on either side of their target. He ran at Locutus, and the massive biomechanical arm rose to attack, but Worf ducked underneath it, tackling the Borg with his full weight.
Locutus remained standing, braced with a foot against the metal grates in the floor.
From the corner of his eye, Worf saw the arm rise up to attack, and so he reached up and held it away from him. But now, with only one hand available to fight Locutus with, he found himself being pushed backwards.
“Data!” he called through clenched teeth.
And then Data appeared next to him, having run forwards from where he had been covering Worf. There was a soft hiss as Data pressed a hypospray against one of the few bare patches of Locutus’ skin, and the Borg went limp, his muscles paralysed.
Data reached for the emergency transporter armband on his upper arm, checked that pattern enhancer field was surrounding all three of them, then tapped the control and they vanished.
They materialised back in the shuttle. Data was already reaching for the helm controls, and Worf let Locutus slump to the floor. He reached for the companel. “Mission accomplished,” he said. “We have him!”
“Firing shuttle thrusters,” said Data, and the Descartes
rushed forwards, away from the Cube.
The shuttle burst through the Borg Cube’s electromagnetic field.
“They’re clear of the Borg field, sir!” called Burkland.
“Beam them out of there, O’Brien!”
She felt the anger rising inside her. They’d come onto her Cube, stolen her property, and she hadn’t even realised what they were doing!
But in their haste to escape, they’d given themselves away. The flare of the shuttle’s thrusters blazed brightly, and she attacked.
“Locked on,” said O’Brien. He activated the transporter…
Data, Worf and Locutus were caught up in the shimmering glow of the beam…
The cutting beam lanced out from the Cube, cutting through the shuttle and rupturing the fusion reactor.
… and Data, Worf and Locutus reformed on the transporter pad. They stepped off the pad, supporting the limp form of Locutus between them.
O’Brien tapped the companel. “Transport successful, sir,” he said. “We’ve got them.”
And on the battle bridge, Riker smiled.